We all know the old saying that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step – and the same principle can be applied if you want to declutter your home. The trick is to begin small and take it one step at a time. Here’s how to get started.
Use 20-Minute Time Boxes
Begin by choosing a small area that contains things you do not have any emotional attachments to – just a drawer, a shelf, a small cupboard or something similar.
Set an alarm to go off in 20 minutes and start decluttering. When your alarm sounds, stop and pay attention to how you feel. If you you feel like you’re done for the day, that’s fine. If you feel like doing a bit more, set the timer for another 20 minutes and keep going.
Continue in 20-minute time boxes, pausing after each one to assess if you would like to finish at that point or keep going.
If you have good stamina and find that 20 minutes is too short, set your timer for 30 minutes or an hour. But be sure to stop before you feel too tired. When you end each session feeling good, you will be more likely to return the next day to do more.
The lovely thing about time boxing is that each small area you clear releases energy for you to do more. The stagnant energy that accumulates around clutter causes you to feel tired but when you start clearing it, this frees up stuck energy in your home and also energizes you.
In fact, so many people have experienced this invigorating effect that I once wrote an article Don’t read or listen to this book at bedtime! to warn what can happen if you read my book too late at night.
Doing 20-minute time boxes also means that with each one you complete, you will experience the feel-good dopamine release that accompanies each achievement, which will encourage you to want to do more.
Break Each Area Down Into Small, Manageable Chunks
Don’t make the mistake of dragging everything out of your cupboards or closets, piling it in the centre of the room and trying to sort the whole lot out in one go. I’ve never heard from anyone with more than a trivial amount of clutter that this method worked for them.
Instead, break each area into small, manageable chunks. If you are clutter clearing a cupboard, work shelf by shelf, completing each one before moving on to the next. For chests of drawers or dressers, work drawer by drawer. If you have a whole junk room full of clutter, divide it into chunks and tackle each area one at a time.
If you get easily distracted, spread sheets or blankets over the other stuff in the room to hide it from view, which will enable you to focus completely on the area you are working on.
Use the Box System to Sort Through Your Clutter
The box system described in Chapter 16 of my book, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui doesn’t take long to set up and will help you enormously to sort through your things and make decisions about what stays and what goes. Two boxes that are particularly useful are the Transit box and the Dilemma box.
The Transit Box
The Transit box is used when you are sorting through an area and find things that don’t belong there at all.
Suppose you find a kettle that has somehow ended up at the back of a shelf in your bedroom. You may be tempted to take it to the kitchen, plug it in and see if it works, then perhaps make yourself a cup of tea. And, before you know it you are sitting in the garden reading a book while you drink your cuppa and you’ve forgotten all about your clutter clearing mission.
Using my method, you put the item in the Transit box and carry on. At the end of the session, you go around your home putting the items in the box where they belong, or if you don’t yet have space for them, put them near where they belong.
The Dilemma Box
The Dilemma box is another lovely invention. When you come across something that you can’t decide whether to keep or let go, in the past this may have brought your clutter clearing session to an abrupt standstill. But, if you use a Dilemma box, any items you are not sure about can get put in there, and you can just continue.
At the end of the session, stash the Dilemma box away somewhere and put a reminder on your calendar to check it a few months later. The passage of time will usually bring much more clarity about whether to keep the items or not, especially if you haven’t used any of them in the intervening period.
If you’d like a more radical approach, ask a friend to open the box for you. Anything you can name, you get to keep. If you can’t remember what’s in there, it rather proves the point that you don’t need any of the things, and your friend gets to take them away and dispose of them for you in any way they see fit!
Have you tried any of these methods to help you declutter your home? Which one helped you the most? Which items did you find most difficult to let go of? Please join the conversation.